Faces of terror: Why India banned 9 Khalistan-linked terrorists in 5 countries
The Centre moved this week to designate nine men accused of promoting terrorism in Punjab as terrorists under India’s anti-terror law amended last year letting the Union home ministry ban individuals and not just organisations. The nine, the ‘nasty nine’ as one Punjab Police officer described them, have been trying to revive militancy in Punjab from their homes in five countries including Pakistan.
The provision was first invoked last September to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Maulana Masood Azhar, Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafeez Saeed, its operational commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Dawood Ibrahim, as terrorists under Indian law. That order was more symbolic. The four have already been designated as terrorists by the United Nations Security Council; Hafiz Saeed as far back as in 2008.
“Monday’s notification is important because this is the first time that this provision of the anti-terror law has been invoked to initiate a crackdown on promoters of Khalistan living in foreign countries,” a senior counter-terror official told Hindustan Times. Since the terrorists are operating from foreign countries, he said, the police would seize any assets that can be linked to them in India and ask their counterparts abroad also to act against them.
The security establishment got down to work soon after. Punjab Police has filed FIRs against one of the nine, Gurpatwant Singh Pannu and his associates in Amritsar and Kapurthala for sedition and secessionism. Pannu is legal adviser to the US-based Sikhs for Justice that was designated a terror group last year. A third case was registered by Haryana Police in Gurugram, adjacent to national capital Delhi.
The group has launched a campaign on the internet called Referendum 2020 that asks people to vote for carving out a sovereign Khalistan out of India. The group has announced that registration would start from today. The campaign, according to the police, has been engineered and backed by Pakistans’ ISI that has been working for years to revive terrorism in Punjab.
Here is why the government has designated them as terrorists.
Based in Hamburg, Germany
Gurmeet Singh aka Bagga, 50, is a close associate of Pakistan-based Sikh radical Ranjeet Singh alias Neeta. Bagga is a former Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) terrorist and is wanted in three cases of shipment of a huge quantity of explosives from Pakistan to Punjab to carry out terror strikes. He has lately been instrumental in smuggling weapons from Pakistan, often using Chinese-made drones that carry a payload of firearms weighing around 10 kg across the fenced border into border villages of Punjab. Bagga was also sentenced to a 4-year prison term by a German court for assassination attempt on Radha Swami Beas Chief, Baba Gurinder Singh Dhillon in Vienna.
Based in Lahore, Pakistan
Ranjeet Singh alias Neeta is the chief of Khalistan Zindabad Force. According to the Union home ministry, he is involved in numerous cases of murder, smuggling of arms and fake currency. He is believed to be closely linked to a fake Indian currency smuggling network operating out of Sialkot and Kasur areas of Pakistan. He is also alleged to be the mastermind behind smuggling firearms into Punjab via drones.
Ranjeet Singh is also in touch with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists and is believed to have been a prime supporter of links between ISI-backed Khalistani elements and other jihadi outfits in Pakistan that target India.
Ranjeet Singh continues to maintain close association with radical elements of the community based in the UK, USA, Canada and European countries and motivate them for carrying out anti-India propaganda and militant activities in India
HARDEEP SINGH NIJJAR
Based in Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver-based Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who immigrated to Canada in 1995-96, claims to have a day job, running a small plumbing business. But he has been on the radar of Indian security agencies for years for links with the Khalistan Tiger Force. According to his dossier, he has been the mastermind and key conspirator of many terrorist acts including bomb blasts in India. Besides, he has been accused of promoting terrorist activities in India by talent spotting and arranging training of recruits.
Nijjar became the operational head of Khalistan Tiger Force after the arrest of its chief Jagtar Singh Tara in 2015. Tara , an accused in the ex-chief minister Beant Singh assasination case, had broken out of a Chandigarh jail in 2004, moved to Pakistan, before landing in Thailand’s Bangkok where he was arrested and brought back.
Nijjar was introduced to Tara in 2011 who mentored him during Nijjar’s visit to Pakistan in April 2012, teaching him how to operate firearms and explosives. A red corner notice was issued against Hardeep Singh Nijjar in 2014 for his involvement in raising terrorist modules at the behest of then KTF chief Jagtar Singh Tara.
BHUPINDER SINGH BHINDA
Based in Frankfurt, Germany
Bhupinder Singh Bhinda is associated with Pakistan-based Ranjeet Singh Neeta of Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF). Besides, remaining in regular telephonic contacts with Ranjit Singh, Bhinda is also in contact with his Punjab-based Sikh terrorists to foment trouble in Punjab.
Bhinda was earlier sentenced (Dec. 2012) to jail for 4 years and 7 months by a Frankfurt Court for involvement in conspiracy to kill the Head of Radha Soami Beas Dera, Baba Gurinder Singh during the latter’s visit to Germany in July 2010.
Based in Lahore, Pakistan
Wadhawa Singh, also known as Dharam Singh and Chacha, is the Babbar Khalsa International chief, who was involved in several crimes including those committed back in the 1980s. According to police records, Wadhwa Singh was part of the six-member Babbar Khalsa team that shot inspector Pritam Singh Bajwa and a constable who raided their hideout in Ludhiana’s Daheru village. The terror group had later gone on to blow up an Air India plane on its way to Montreal, Canada from Delhi, that killed 329 people, mostly Canadians.
He also maintains links with Pak-based Islamic terrorists and maintains close association with radical elements based in the UK, USA, Canada and European countries.
In Lahore, Wadhwa Singh also runs a construction business and owns several shops in Lahore.
His son Jitindervir Singh and son-in-law Satnam Singh, who are based in Germany, are active members of BKI-Germany. Wadhawa Singh is also closely associated with other BKI affiliates in other countries, particularly in the United Kingdom.
LAKHBIR SINGH RODE
Based in Lahore, Pakistan
Lakhbir Singh Rode, the nephew of radical Sikh preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who advocated carving out of Khalistan, has been described in police records as a hardcore terrorist associated with several terror attacks in India. Currently, police say he runs a business of import and export of food grains and edible items in Lahore, besides involvement in drug trade.
Lakhbir Singh Rode’s son, Bhagat Brar, based in Canada, is actively involved in anti-India activities. He frequently visits Pakistan for meeting radical community leaders based there besides the ISI officials for organising and coordinating anti-India activities abroad. Lakhbir Singh continues to keep close association with radical elements in the UK, Canada and other European countries for revival of terrorism in Punjab.
PARAMJIT SINGH PANJWAR
Based in Lahore, Pakistan
Paramjit Singh Panjwar is the chief of Khalistan Commando Force-Panjwar. He was involved in multiple terror cases during 1988-1990 and had negotiated with Afghan Mujahideens based in Peshawar for supply of arms and ammunition and training of Sikh militants. He is also involved in smuggling of drugs.
Now, Panjwar mostly appears to play an advisory role, radicalising young men of the community and helping them carry out anti-India and pro-Khalistan activities.
PARAMJIT SINGH PAMMA
Based in Birmingham, UK
Paramjit Singh aka Pamma is UK-based Babbar Khalsa International activist. A red corner notice was issued against him after his role surfaced during investigations into the murder of Rashtriya Sikh Sangat head Rulda Singh in Patiala in July 2009.
Pamma was arrested in Portugal when he was on a visit from the UK but he managed to secure his release from Portugal on the ground that the British authorities had already granted asylum to him, according to the police records. Officials say he has been brazen about his pro-Khalistan activities after his release by Portugal and has been conspiring with the ISI and Sikh terrorists based in Pakistan, particularly Wadhawa Singh Babbar.
GURPATWANT SINGH PANNUN
Based in New York/California, USA
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun is associated with the banned organization ‘Sikhs for Justice’, as legal adviser. Pannun has been leading a campaign “Punjab Referendum 2020 for Khalistan”, launched in a rally in June 2014 in New York. NIA DIG Sonia Narang told a UAPA tribunal last year that the SJF is presently propagating ‘Referendum 2020’ in a very big way on the social media as well as on ground by holding meetings across USA and other countries where Sikhs are in large numbers. Activities of the SFJ have been held to be unlawful, disruptive and threaten the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of India by the tribunal that confirmed the ban under India’s anti-terror law. The judge said there was enough evidence that SFJ works in collusion with anti-India entities and forces.